Congress Must Act: Pass the Freedom to Move Act
As transit agencies across the country consider cuts to transit service -- while at the same time our nation begins to turn a corner in recovering from this public health and economic crisis -- it is critical we protect and expand public transit service, not reduce it.
The Freedom to Move Act, introduced by Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Sen. Ed Markey, will improve community livability and mobility, increase connectivity to critical services -- particularly for low-income workers and families, seniors and individuals with disabilities -- and address many of our nation’s most severe inequities.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, workers and families were spending more time and money commuting to jobs, education and other critical services than ever before. Data shows that low-income families in particular bear the biggest financial burden -- spending nearly 30 percent of their household income on transportation expenses. At the same time, increased traffic congestion is contributing to growing greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, exacerbating climate change and contributing to health disparities like asthma and lung cancer in communities already at the margins.
The Freedom to Move Act would help to support state and local efforts to promote public transportation as a public good for all by:
- Supporting state and local efforts to implement fare-free public transportation systems. The bill establishes a $5 billion competitive grant program, known as Freedom to Move Grants to offset fare revenues for transit agencies.
- Investing in efforts to improve the safety and quality of public transportation service, particularly in low-income and historically under-served communities, including by:
- Covering operational costs, including the hiring and training of personnel, fuel costs, and maintenance.
- Investing in public health emergency response efforts, including personal protective equipment and administrative leave for operational personnel.
- Improving the safety and accessibility of bus stops, pedestrian and bike shelters.
- Redesigning bus routes to improve service, modernizing and improving the accessibility of signage; and
- Modernizing surface infrastructure such as painted bus lanes and signal priority systems to alleviate traffic congestion and improve multi-modal accessibility.
- Requiring grantees to utilize funds with a particular focus on addressing transit equity gaps. Grantees would be required to work in partnership with community advocates and stakeholders to report on how resources will be used to improve the reliability of transit service for low-income and historically underserved communities.
This act is one important step toward transit justice. Join the campaign calling for public transit that is equitable, sustainable, and affordable -- allowing everyone in America the Freedom to Move.